The United Kingdom's finance minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, announced a new lump of money today, some £600 million ($965 million), for scientific research. The new funding—part of the chancellor's autumn budget statement, a sort of half-year report on the U.K. economy—will be spent on big data and energy efficient computing, synthetic biology, energy storage, and advance materials, according to RCUK, the body that represents Britain's seven research councils.
Researchers have largely welcomed the new funding. "Science adds significant value to the economy and society so to see it prioritised alongside school infrastructure, fast transport links and new houses is very positive," said Paul Hardaker, chief executive of the Institute of Physics in London, in a statement.
Some observers, however, say the new spending is simply making up for earlier cuts made by the current government. Soon after its election in 2010, the governing coalition froze the science budget and slashed capital spending on research infrastructure. The result is that the amount of government money spent on research is being eroded by inflation. According to the pressure group Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the government has made up some of the shortfall with bits and pieces of new funding announced over the past 2 years, but today's £600 million is the largest so far. "We were hoping that the Chancellor would continue his trend of supporting science and engineering, and are really delighted with this new commitment - the total amount of new funding since 2010 has now reached almost £2 billion," said CaSE Director Imran Khan.